Monday, June 2, 2014

Moscow - hiking about

It was my last day in Moscow.   I visited some churches then went on an adventure looking for St. Andrew’s Church of England. There was supposed to be an evening service and meeting there. The evening service turned out to be off because an opera recital was taking place.  I actually was sitting in a cafe, showing a girl the google internet map of the area, and street the cafe was actually on asking, where the church street was, showing her the names of the streets,   when it was only a couple of blocks away and she said she didn't recognize any of the streets.  They were in her language and alphabet but they were all Greek to me.
I eventually got a map which had both the cyrrilic and latin naming. Then I asked a young man and he pointed me to the very street the cafe was on. He used his Samsung gps and rudimentary English to make sure I was pointed down the street to the church a couple of blocks away. It was across from the Marriott Courtyard.  I’d already gone to the Marriott Moscow Grand.  This was beyond the great Russian writer Pushkin's statue. There a lovely Marriott trainee got me all sorted out finding the right Marriott and gave me the indispensable tourist map.
Up until now I’d not needed such a map because Barrett had been reading a regular Moscow map in cyrrilic code.I’m convinced the Soviets use the cyrrilic alphabet just to ensure that no invader will ever get through Moscow or anywhere in fact in Russia because it’s all Greek.
I finally found St. Andrews only to encounter a busy surly chaplain.  Travelling, I’ve enjoyed meeting priests around the world, but this one was the first rude one.  Later I told Barrett about this and she figured he’d probably osmosed the Russian brevity and abruptness and not to take it personally.  As his church was being turned into an operatic forum for the evening he was probably preoccupied and didn’t recognize a sweaty Harley Davidson t shirted sneaker wearing blue jeaned pot belly older sort of Canadian as a true Anglican of the faith.  A regular colonial, and here in Moscow, is probably what he thought, Brits being Brits. That said I’ve got the very best priest the British could have produced in my parish so it balances out.  The poor fellow is also probably mad with the alphabet.
I wandered a bit.  Walked down by the Kremlin.  Checked out some statues. Some a porcelain moose in a window so am convinced beyond doubt moose are in Russia.  I also saw my Harley with a different paint job.  Made me want to ride. Got back to the apartment where the washer wasn’t working, It had captured Barretts clothes holding them hostage. She’d arrived later to tell me she waited for a repairman to release her clothing but he’d not arrived.  She’d  gone off to the Gulag Museum but found it closed.  I’d had an hour nap and a snack of Riga sardines and the repairman hadn’t come.
I was off to the church again where the opera was in full swing and the meeting was the normal tragicomedy in foreign accents.  We laughed downstairs while the piano thumped upstairs.  It was a marvellous way to spend the last evening in Moscow. Later I’d walk and talk of walruses and things with an English fellow married to a beautiful Russian.
When I got back to the apartment the repairman had been. Barrett was pleased her clothing had been freed. “He simply broke the door with his knife,” she said.  I could see she’d taken vicarious pleasure in the ill fate of the offending laundry washer door.  Now her clothing is drying out on the balcony.
We’re on the 14th floor and the view is spectacular.  Last night I was having salmon in the cafe down the street and a delightful businessman joined me. He was drinking beer and I was drinking coffee, A Russian born Russian with a Texas accent. He said he’d represented American oil men here and travelled back and forth to Texas.  He said the district we were in had several embassies. He gave me a copy of the English Moscow Times which I read while I finished my dinner before he joined me again to chat some more while I had ice cream and he had another beer.  Being in the business of oil he knew Alberta as well and waxed poetic about the Calgary stampede.  I’d just been to the Bolshoi and he was glad I’d so enjoyed the opera.  He loved the city of Moscow with all the cultural achievements but loved the West and the oil business.
I confess I enjoyed speaking English.  Other than Barrett, that gentleman, and now the fellow tonight, I’d not spoken more than a few broken phrases with anyone the last two weeks. Probably that’s part of the maker’s plan. Give my voice and mind a rest since the spoken and heard word are so much a part of my work. I’ve enjoyed watching people , their gestures and expressions.  The young are so animated here whereas a lot of the old are suspicious and scowl, more than in the West, much more.
I saw a man wearing a catchy t shirt, which said, “EAT Your Enemy”.  He was built and looked just like a Hollywood Russian bad guy.   I smiled at the shirt and he didn’t smile back.  Best to keep moving.
We’re up at 4 in the morning.  Barrett’s a great traveller. I’m so glad she said she was only travelling with two bags.  We’ve done well, washing linen of course, but the light travelling has made everything so doable.  There was no room on the train for more suitcases and we’ve had to carry and wheel our bags all over trains and planes and metro. It's been a fast paced trip with lots of walking and hauling gear.  Totally unworkable without travelling light.  It’s really a great way to travel.
I travelled with just a pack sack in my 20’s and 30’s but with all the medical conference travel I’ve become fat and lazy with a big suitcase and a little bag. I pack enough underwear and socks for a week or two and multiples shirts and pairs of pants.
Barrett calls this ‘camping’ but it’s really been the very best way to travel.  I love my Eagle Creek wheeled and shoulder strapped luggage.  It’s done extremely well.
All that didn’t work this trip was the gps maps I downloaded for Russia. Also my Iridium satellite phone connects me with some Russian speaking woman rather than dialling through to home. Getting a cell phone card here was worked just fine along with internet email.  I really would have liked to have had my hand held gps. That would really would help in city travel.As it was Barrett has scouted and conversed and found our way wherever we’ve had to go.  A top notch tour guide.
She says I’ve been most helpful and as well as a pleasant sort of travel companion.  I'm fairly non plussed by changing plans and disruptions.  It's all an adventure.  Everything is so novel.  She does get into conversations with people about their cats and children though.  I’ve had to be patient as she’s learning that some lady’s son is in prison or some daughters husband drinks too much.  She delights in these conversations.  So while I’ve been enjoying architecture,  paintings, churches she’s been having a very different experience of language, stories and people.  She’s been so happy to be with her family and friends again too.  She really animated after spending time with them.
I can’t help but think that a lot of my personal journey here has been about ‘loving your enemy’ and ‘forgiving’.  My childhood was so impacted by the Kennedy Missile Crisis and the Cold War.  Sure we got great James Bond OO7 movies but really I lived in the fear of nuclear war and threat of the apocalypse.  It wasn’t until the SALT talks that I thought that we just might have another future than the Mel Gibson’s Road Warrior one. So I really was resentful, I’m sure, at the communists who no doubt were resentful at us and vice versa.  The Stalin era architecture are a sharp contrast to the beautiful onion and cross churches.
Here I’m seeing that the Russians  are much like the Russians I’ve known back home. I was telling Barrett about the Russians I scuba dived with.  They certainly were trustworthy. And here so many people have been so helpful.
The women are so beautiful too with their love of fashion and especially their devotion to high heeled shoes. I tried to take a few pictures of shoes then but it's not as easy as it might seem.  Besides I'd not want to be arrested as a photog with a foot fetish.  I couldn't do justice to the fashion moments that happen every few minutes on the downtown streets.  Women that really could have stepped right off the catwalk saunter by.  The culture overall  is so global it’s just a different world than at some level I expected. Really, I guess, I expected more drab.
I love the Orthodox Catholic church, the devotion and revival I see happening here.  It’s miraculous really.  A real revival.  So much hope too. Rebirth.
So again I face my fears, have faith and am rewarded.  God is good.
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